Helping During the Psychiatric Hospital Stay
You may be feeling overwhelmed, confused, or even depressed yourself if your loved one needs to be hospitalized. If you are not used to experiencing these events in your life, you may feel like you are the one in crisis. It is never easy to see our loved one suffer or to feel helpless to ease that suffering. There is hope. There is definitely hope for your loved one; people with bipolar disorder and other mental illness do recover and lives do improve. Sometimes, psychiatric hospitalization is the bridge between crisis and living a stable, balanced, quality life.
My last two posts introduced you to some important factors that should be considered when your, your family or your love on is contemplating psychiatric hospitalization, or has been hospitalized. I want to expand on that today and share with you some additional ways in which you can help your loved one who is psychiatrically hospitalized while keeping yourself in a positive frame of mind.
Talking to your Love One
- Don’t be hurt if your loved one does not feel like talking right away. He or she might be feeling an intense mixture of emotions. Some feel shame, embarrassment or fear. He or she might feel like they let you down, or she/he might feel like no one understands. Respect your love one’s inner world. With patients and time, it is very likely that he/she will be communicating with you and will want to connect.
- When you do connect, do be hurt yourself or take your loved ones words or behaviors personally. Often people with bipolar disorder have racing thoughts, experience distorted perceptions, and don’t process information very well. Your loved one might be confused about what has actually happened, or even angry that he/she is hospitalized. Be patient. This will pass and is a natural stage in the healing process.
- Use positive communication that conveys to your love one that you are there for him/her, that you care, and that you want to help. Avoid negative communication that conveys anger, or an impatient attitude. Your loved is where he/she is, and she/he cannot move any faster that she/he already is. The path to progressive recovery might feel frustratingly slow, but this is not your loved one’s fault. Bipolar disorder is a real physiological disorder that affects the person’s thought processes and behaviors. With that said, stay away from using language that is shaming or blaming. Say,” I care about you” often. Ask your loved one how you can help. Avoid “you” statements like “you always….”, “Why can’t you…..?” etc. Avoid blaming words like crazy, irresponsible, etc. Say things like “I know you will get through this”, “I believe in you”, I see how hard you are trying”, “you are a good person”. Your love one may be suffering from low, low self esteem at this point, so reminding him or her of how good he or she really is, and how much you not only love him or her, but also really, really like him or her can always help.
Communicating With Staff Effectively
Keep a notebook with you whenever you talk to staff. Keep track of who are talk to and take note of their contact information. It is also wise to keep track of what time you called and note what was said during the conversation. Ask for the ombudsman’s number as well. This way, you will have it if you need it, and staff will feel your presence. Be polite an diplomatic. You will find that most staff really do care, so keep the lines of communication with staff collaborative, and positive. Remember to attend your loved one’s IDTT as mentioned in my previous posts earlier this week.
Keep Things in Perspective
It can seem like your own world is falling apart. It can seem like a chaotic whirlwind when you are balancing your life between home, work, an caring for a loved one who has acute needs. You may also be worried about how serious the illness that your loved one is experiencing. Understand that Bipolar Disorder is not a sentence to perpetual disruption. Being hospitalized is not the end, it is a beginning. Being re-hospitalized does not have to be perceived as something horrible, or as any kind of failure, but rather a way to reset and rebalance. If this is the first time you have experienced this, you will find that getting yourself into a support group and reading everything you can about Bipolar Disorder will help you feel empowered as a support person for your loved one. If this hospitalization has occurred before, you will have acquired some skills. If you are able to keep yourself in a positive space, or frame of mind, you will find that understanding that sometimes bipolar disorder expresses in very intense ways, and you know what to do when your loved one experiences extreme symptoms, you will not feel helpless, and your world won’t feel out of control. This will also help you to be non-reactive, and positively proactive when addressing situations as they arise. In turn, this approach will greatly enhance the progress toward recovery that your loved one will make.
Finally, check this brochure out; it has some very good information for you:
Psychiatric Hospitalization; What You Need to Know When a Loved One is Hospitalized, NAMI, Minnesota